NASHVILLE (AP) – The nation's largest caucus of Republican state leaders plans to spend $6 million to recruit 300 women to run for office in the next election cycle, women GOP leaders said Tuesday.
The announcement was made at a news conference near the state Capitol following a two-day leadership summit of Republican women from around the country.
Last year, the Republican State Leadership Committee identified 185 new female Republican candidates from 36 states, and 84 of them were elected to state offices. The caucus is hoping to get at least 150 elected next year.
"The whole point of this ... is to find qualified women who would like to be asked and would like to have the support of an organization like this," said Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.
Republicans hold a supermajority in the Tennessee General Assembly. Out of the state's 132 legislators, there are four Republican women in the Senate and eight in the House.
Republican National Committee co-chair Sharon Day was among those who attended the summit. She said the funds raised by the RSLC will be used to help female candidates in areas that range from any political training they may need to fundraising.
"We're there as a support mechanism to make sure that they cross the finish line," said Day, adding that she hopes women will also seek other elected positions, such as city councils and school boards.
"It's not just ... statewide elected or federal positions, it's women all across the board, because there are wonderful opportunities for women in all walks of life," she said.
Following the news conference, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner issued a statement supporting the Republican effort to recruit more women in particular into politics.
"Democrats believe that this state will be stronger if more women have a seat and voice at the governing table," said Turner, D-Nashville.
He noted an effort by Democrats to form a political action committee that will advocate for women's and children's issues in the state, as well as support female Democratic candidates.
"Our caucus, along with other Democratic groups, will be focused on recruiting and supporting women who can speak to the issues working families across this state care about," Turner said.
State Democratic Rep. Brenda Gilmore of Nashville said most women are naturally more concerned about issues related to children and family, which is why she supports more females in politics – regardless of their party affiliation.
"Historically, when women are in elected positions, more attention and resources get channeled to children and family issues than when men are elected in those positions," she said.
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